I started publishing books because there were things going unsaid that needed to be discussed in public. Books are a powerful vehicle for putting ideas and information out there, for sparking debate, for ending public silences. I hoped that readers would respond if the books were written and published.
You and others like you did respond, and you do today.
Our first books in the early 1970s included a groundbreaking report from First Nations reserves across the country, written by journalist Heather Robertson, and several books that challenged the destructive policies of city politicians and city planners, often taking their instructions from land developers, that were destroying downtowns and neighbourhoods.
Readers responded to these books. They said things that weren’t being said anywhere else. So did newspaper book reviewers, radio and TV talk shows, and magazines. Bookstores ordered the books, and sold them. Canadian non-fiction was finding a prominent place alongside U.S. books in bookstores.
Since then, we have published more than 600 books, and we continue to publish 10 or 12 adult titles annually. At the core of our publishing today, as in the 1970s, are books which we’re publishing because they say things that need to be said. Take a look at our recent title Campus Confidential by Ken Coates and Bill Morrison. Their commentary on Canadian universities today is a refreshing and informed take on the realities of the university world and what it actually offers students. Or consider Doug Roche’s inside account of developments you can’t read about anywhere on the web or in newspapers about international efforts to outlaw nuclear weapons.
Not all the books we publish are so earnest! Our adult list now includes a series we inherited a couple of years ago, short popular books on topics in Canadian history that appeal to casual readers. What attracted me about the Amazing Stories series was that they appealed to people who don’t necessarily want to read long and demanding books – but who are interested in our heritage. Our innovation in this series has been to look for professional historians who would like to write for a popular audience, and who will give readers an enjoyable narrative – but one which reflects the best current historical research. See our new book on Canadians in the Boer War as an example.
The most dramatic development in Canadian writing and publishing since the early 1970s is the incredible decline in the role of bookstores in helping you and me find the books we want to read – once we discover they exist. I am constantly bumping into books that I would love to read, but I’ve never heard of – books published by other Canadian publishers like me. I used to find those books by going into bookstores and looking around. Now, almost never. Those bookstores are mostly gone.
We don’t have in place anything to take their place – at least, not yet. Along with other publishers, I’m working on the problem through our national association. Meanwhile, the best we can do is get our information out there on the web, and we’re putting lots of effort into that right now. And we have this website, where I hope you’ll be able to find books on topics you’re interested in very easily. Hopefully you’ll bump into others that appeal.
One good thing about this website and our publishing house: we have copies of the books we publish, and we can send them anywhere within one business day. Unlike the big online bookstores, there’s no waiting for a distributor to ship to a giant warehouse which in turn gets the book to you. If you order from us, we ship the book to you ourselves.
Of course we want people to read our books – we always have. Lots of you do. But we also are always looking for books that fit the publishing mandate we set for ourselves. So if (like many of us) you’re a writer as well as a reader and you have a project in mind, check out our editorial guidelines. If your work fits our interests, get in touch with our editorial director.
Meanwhile, happy book browsing on our site.
— James Lorimer